I’m the stuff of envy among my friends and colleagues and I’ve also encountered some odd scrutiny. Before I boarded the most luxurious cruise liner in the world for a few days to indulge in the sheer opulence for which Queen Mary 2 is renowned and ever since I disembarked, I’ve been deemed, of course, to be extraordinarily fortunate, but also maybe not that deserving. The quips have included: “well, aren’t you the lucky one”, “did you have the right wardrobe?” and “shame, the weather in the North Sea must have been rough”. These were peppered with some enthusiastic and joyful messages too but it’s interesting what an aspirational trip like this elicits from some people.
So, indulge me now while I show off for a moment because I did indeed enjoy every moment. I even enjoyed checking in at the cruise terminal in Southampton. It was spacious, the process was orderly and efficient, and the place was abuzz with a lightly charged atmosphere – a bit like I remember major airports used to be when I was a child. While my teeth didn’t chatter as they did when I was eight, my anticipation was quite involuntary.
As we boarded, we didn’t even have to worry about our luggage, as we were told it would be dispatched to our stateroom, so we headed straight off on a tour of the restaurants, bars and shops to check out what was on offer. Our heads began to spin because there is just so much to do. Eventually, we settled down for lunch in the King’s Court, where the service was massively friendly and super-efficient, the food was abundant, varied and delicious. We were going to have a lovely time. By we, I mean my longest standing girl-friend (I have learned to refrain from calling her the oldest), Rosie, who I’m glad to say is now forever in my debt. She loved her time on board and was the best person I could have travelled with – not a negative bone in her body. My life-partner would be seasick adrift in a shallow pond, so it was sweet relief not to have to cope with a moaning man for three days.
Now, three days sounds like a short time but actually when you’re out at sea, you feel wonderfully distanced from reality and time itself, which has the pleasing effect of rendering the trip’s duration as unimportant. For me, it was more about relishing the fact that you can do nothing but enjoy what’s on offer onboard … and then time rushes past and seems suspended at once – it was quite a curious sensation.
Rosie and I perused the library, we sat in the Commodore Club and gazed at the view, we lazed in the sun, we played Scrabble in the games room (and in the bridge room up at the top too). We tried cocktails; we marveled at some shows and the entertainment; we took in more views of the sea all around us, including sunsets, oil-rigs and wind farms – and sunsets around windfarms, which was surreal; we went to the spa and were pampered; we ate in different restaurants; we danced in the nightclub; we visited the art gallery; and we chatted to some of our fellow guests; and then, of course, we slept very comfortably in our state room. We even found time to watch television and see where we were going on the ‘view from the bridge’ and previewed the live entertainment on offer that day as we ate the breakfast we’d ordered the night before. We found ourselves imagining the possibilities of what you can do on longer passages – like learn to dance properly (our moves in the club last night had failed to impress) or learn a language. So QM2 is more than this magical thing of hospitality but is also an educational institution of sorts.
After we set sail from Southampton to Hamburg, we crossed the Channel overnight to stop over in Le Havre for the day. Sadly, the weather was a bit dismal and a stubborn mist made the town invisible to us from the ship’s decks, so we decided to remain on board and carry on exploring and indulging.
Queen Mary 2 is the length of four football fields. That might not sound much, although it does to me, but when you walk from the spa to the restaurant and back to your stateroom and then down to the games room or the main lobby to check on what’s happening, you might delight not only in the fact that you’re seeing different things but also that you’re running up a mass of steps. I walked more onboard QM2 than I do on a fervent shopping spree in a mall after a stiff dog walk. I clocked over 10 000 steps each day we were on the ship, which I thought was pretty impressive and certainly puts paid to any fears of feeling encumbered or restricted. Add to this that we were lucky and had a super smooth passage – hardly a ripple in the North Sea as we headed towards Hamburg; it looked more like the Med. The sun shone too and while it was windy, we were able to find pockets of still and sheltered bliss where we relaxed with a little drinky.
The staircases, the artworks, the seats, the carpets, the Royal Court theatre, the Grand Lobby, the staterooms themselves, the memorabilia and pictures of famous people who’ve been on past voyages … absolutely everything smacks of supreme luxury and at every turn you find your eyes alight on something of interest. The piano in the Grand Lobby and the flower arrangement is a spectacle in itself. Of course, at the journey’s end, we wished we could have spent a little longer in the sun, more time in the spa and had more time to read but when we reached Hamburg, where the disembarkation was now expectedly seamless, we certainly felt refreshed and utterly sated. We thought the service was impeccable and so friendly and helpful – we were almost embarrassed by it. Cunard’s attention to detail is faultless and considerate – no stone unturned in making the passenger’s voyage a great one. We were pleasantly surprised by the mix of people on board – from young couples to groups of gays, from stylish fashionistas to the expected seasoned and older cruisers. Our only regret on leaving the ship was having eaten so much. I never eat pudding but I defy anyone who can resist a trio of sweet creations that include chocolate, caramel and cream.
For any reluctant cruise passenger, I challenge you to not enjoy even a brief spell on board Queen Mary 2 … you’ll be amazed by every aspect of the journey and what this grand dame has to offer. She’s absolutely superb. I’d certainly jump on board again in a heartbeat but for now this humble PR person will have to survive on memories alone – thankfully I’ve stored quite a few.
I have the privilege of working with Whitestar Cruise & Travel in South Africa on the Cunard brand and was given the chance to experience Queen Mary 2 for three days (Southampton-Hamburg; 24-27 May 2018). My friend, Rosie, came along for the ride and shared a balcony stateroom with me. We paid for our drinks and spa treats. All food was included, unless you’re eating in The Veranda – a 5 star restaurant. For more information: www.whitestar.co.za